Thanksgiving Archive

Thursday, October 23, 2014

cauliflower cheese

cauliflower cheese

What, you’ve never had cauliflower cheese before? Why, it’s right up there on the American Heart Association’s recommended diet, above the kale and below the oat bran. Okay, well, maybe just the cauliflower is. I realize this dish may sound strange if you’ve never heard of it. The first time I saw it on a menu in the UK last fall, I thought a word was missing, perhaps “with” or “and.” I mean, you cannot make cheese out of cauliflower or vice-versa, or at least I hope not.* And then I tried it, bubbling and brown in a small ramekin aside my roast** at a tiny Inn in the middle of nowhere that looks like something you’d see in a Bridget Jones Diary (basically where I learned everything I knew about the UK before I got there, well, that and Morrissey songs) and I stopped talking. I stopped thinking. My heart may or may not have stopped beating for a moment, though I’m sure it was love, not fibrillations. How could it be anything but, when cauliflower florets are draped with a sharp cheddar cheese sauce spiked with mustard and a bit of cayenne and then baked in the oven until bronzed and, wait, what were we talking about again?

cauliflower, spice, s/p, butter, milk, cheese
chopped florets

This is a British dish, if the sharp cheddar, mustard powder, cayenne and charmed name didn’t give it away. I realize that British food has long been a punching bag for other supposedly superior world cuisines, but I found this to be anything but the case. Even if I had, the awesome names of national dishes — toad in the holes, bubble and squeaks, spotted dicks, singing hinnies, jam roly-polys and doorstop sandwiches — would have more than compensated for any failures in the flavor department.

cook until firm-tender

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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

sweet potato cake with marshmallow frosting

sweet potato cake with toasted marshmallow frosting

I hope you don’t mind me going briefly off-topic here. I know that the holiday week demands exclusive chatter about giblets and squash and all the things we can pour butter and cream into, but I had the best revelation this week and even though it’s about as revolutionary of a concept as, brr, it’s cold outside in November, I’m going to tell you about it anyway because that’s what I do here.

sweet potato fuzzy pumper barber shop
the fall spice lineup

It began, as distress often does, on Sunday night when I should have been watching Homeland and going to sleep early. Instead, I was on the internet when I came across a gorgeous apartment only to look up from the laptop and see my own decidedly less gorgeous apartment sprawled out before me, and said, as I have a zillion Sunday nights before this one, “Why is this place such a MESS?” And continued, “Alex, look at this apartment on the web. Why can’t we do this? We have these to-do piles everywhere and whole weekends pass and we never get to them and uuuugh.” And my husband, he of few words but exceptional insight, said “We went to the Museum of Natural History today.”

add the sweet potatoes to the batter

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Friday, November 22, 2013

parsley leaf potatoes

parsley leaf potatoes

As you may have noticed, as the week’s progressed, things have gotten simpler. We started with great ambitions — we will make a green bean casserole from scratch! We will trim the beans! make a roux! sauté the mushrooms! coat and deep-fry the onions! We moved onto my favorite stuffing made from torn baguettes, diced apples and onions and celery, three herbs, sometimes cornbread, sometimes sausage; it’s a two-pan ordeal. We slipped quietly into the simple weeknight savior, cauliflower and brown butter breadcrumbs. At the rate we’re going, I’ll have a boiled water recipe on the site by Monday. But somewhere between five-ingredient breadcrumbs and recipes that don’t need to be spelled out, there’s this, a potato recipe with only salt, butter and parsley.

scrubbed russets
halved lengthwise

Why slow down? If you’re like me, at the outset of a holiday, you’re brimming with ideas: dry-brined, braise-roasted and deep-fried turkeys! homemade stuffing from homemade bread! individual miniature pies for every person at the table. As the holiday gets closer — not unlike the progression of this week for me — real life begins to creep in. There are day jobs, flu-like symptoms, traffic jams and extremely dull things like dentist appointments doing everything in their power to interrupt. There are only so many hours in the day, and days left in which one can cook. There are only so many hours of those hours in which one can cook that they actually want to.

one leaf per potato half, plus salt

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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

cauliflower with brown butter crumbs

cauliflower with brown butter crumbs

This site is 7 years, 4 months and 5 days old, which is exactly how long I’ve been meaning to tell you about one of my favorite ways to make cauliflower. You think I would have gotten around to it already, as it’s the very cauliflower dish I ever knew, but instead I’ve been distracting us with quiches* and soups, and pasta and fritters. It’s a shame, as this is so much easier to make.

everything but the butter
cauliflower in giant florets

My mother used to steam a whole head of cauliflower, and when it was about done, melt a pat or two of butter in a cast-iron frying pan (back when all of our skillets were cast-iron, and I found them heavy and annoying and embarrassingly old-fashioned; oh, Deb), then toss in enough seasoned breadcrumbs (always seasoned “Italian-style” which makes me chuckle because what would Italian seasoning be in Italy, salt and pepper?**) to absorb the butter and cook them until they were a browned together. This would be sprinkled on and pressed against the cauliflower and it’s really no surprise that I become a cauliflower person, is it? Salty butter, brown butter-crisped crumbs will do that to a person.

getting ready to brown the butter

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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

apple-herb stuffing for all seasons

apple and herb stuffing

I have several stuffing-related confessions to unload today:

My first stuffing love was found at a friend’s house, when her mother served us an apple stuffing from a Pepperidge Farm mix that is no longer made, I presume because it’s not 1989. My god, did I nag my mother (who wasn’t terribly keen on packaged foods, meanie) to make it too. Sometimes she’d cave, though never often enough, but it didn’t stop me from growing up thinking that the dreamiest stuffing includes tart apples, celery, lightly caramelized onions and herbs, a dream I was repeatedly denied as a child and yes, I’m requesting a very tiny violin.

torn-up bread. cornbread works too.
apples, celery, onion, bread, herbs

I think if you’re limiting your stuffing consumption to a single day in November, you are missing out. When you snip stuffing free of its holiday-specific tethers, it doesn’t take long to realize how welcome it could be speared onto your fork the other 364 days a year, a category it shares with latkes (as awesome at cocktail parties as they are for weekend breakfasts topped with a lacy-edged fried egg, and especially fitting this year), yule logs (for Thanksgiving or just the mega-Yodel of it) and fairy lights, which you should not even pretend aren’t as awesome strung across a yard on a July evening as they are outlining shutters and fire escapes in December. I would eat stuffing every week of the year if everyone would stop looking at me so strangely about it.

apples, celery and onion, sauteed in butter

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